In a world where images can be published and accessed through transnational communities, we face a unique opportunity to collectively curate our history. However, most of our social media images are saved to databases where they risk getting lost in the masses and be mistaken for digital debris.
From that point of view, this project investigates the possibilities of graphic design to navigate, manage, and preserve images from collective databases.
In 2020 alone it is predicted that 1.4 trillion photos will be taken, adding up to a total number of 7.4 trillion photos collected and stored globally.1
A large number of these will be shared and published on social media platforms such as the image-based communication tool Instagram, whose users uploaded 46,000 images per minute in 2018.2
While technological advancements have enabled this, social media justifies it by housing the images and giving purpose to a “like” economy continuing to develop towards infinite scrolling and continuous production and flow of content.
What is published is not only shared but also saved into growing databases. This collecting behavior can be seen as a to shift in value of what we save: “[What is archived] is no longer a monument for future memory, but a document for possible use.”3
We used to save things because they were considered to have a value for the future, now we save everything – just in case.
For designers, this brought about a change in the working method, where “pulling elements from databases and libraries becomes the default; creating them from scratch becomes the exception.”4
However, with social media, everybody has now also become a creator of content and a broadcaster of their own reality. The increasing documentation mentioned above has escalated with the growing capacities of databases.
While the increased documentation is often referred to as a means of control, there are also strengths and opportunities that arise from the increasingly shared everyday life of the individual. Where reporting of events through traditional media might be biased or under pressure from stakeholders, social media composes a direct channel to the perspectives of the people.
Sharing photographs plays an increasingly important role in representing contemporary society. With the joint collections of photographs available, we face a unique chance to collectively curate our history and affect what will be our future remnants.
Where it is of importance for the visual communication discipline to responsibly deal with the processing of visual information, this era of imagery in overflow and constant growth presents an increasingly important challenge for our field to suggest ways of selecting, organizing, and expressing information.
Therefore, this research aims to investigate the possibilities for graphic design to address this overflow of images from three perspectives: navigation of the database and its image collections, creating increased comprehensibility, and possible preservation methods for the future.
If not addressed, our image collections might become overwhelming to the point where nobody cares to process the data and information anymore. Our future remnants might get lost within a sea of digital debris; how would we then be remembered?
B i o g r a p h y
Evelina Hallén is a graphic designer from Sweden. She graduated from Linköping University in 2016 with a Bachelor in Graphic Design and Communication. She did an internship at a graphic design studio in New York before starting to work as a graphic designer and content manager in Copenhagen, Denmark, where she worked for two years before leaving for Switzerland to pursue her MDes.